Alex and Caroline Peckham talk with Hodgson about their role in establishing Nelson as the centre of cider making in this country. They brew handcrafted rare and specials ciders at their rural property. While the property is not open to the public, Peckham’s Ciders are widely available throughout the region, including at the Moutere Inn which is the closest pub to their orchard.
The Nelson region has a rich history in cider making but this apple based drink has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Alex and Caroline Peckham planted a small orchard with traditional cider-making apples and after a short time realised they needed more trees and more varieties so out came the last of the berry fruit on the land and in went more cider apple trees.
Along with growing their own apples they have a full cider production facility on site so control every aspect of producing their wonderful products, including the latest addition of a canning line.
“One of the real keys for us is we have now been making cider for about 14 years, we have been developing our own cider orchard in Nelson for 10 years, and that length of time has allowed us to understand how to manage the fruit and how to blend the varieties in order to make these rare, more complex ciders.
“The time we have spent cider making has given us an understanding of a wide range of traditional and experimental cider making techniques.”
One example of the things they are trialling is the recent production of a cider fermented on its skins rather than fermenting just the juice and they also have a couple of wild ferment barrel aged ciders. These are ciders that rely on yeasts that occur naturally in the orchard and cidery to ferment the apples rather than commercial yeasts, “they are dry ciders with really interesting flavours.
“We are also making a cider using an ancient traditional French cider making technique called keeving.”
‘Keeving’ is a way of making the ultimate style of naturally sweet sparkling cider, it is traditional both in Western England and the northwest of France; this production technique has almost disappeared from commercial production in the UK but is still very much alive in France. The idea is to ensure a long slow fermentation, resulting in a cider that can be bottled while still sweet and without any fear of excessive re-fermentation later.
“We are also producing still, wild fermented ciders for hand-pull direct from barrels, very much like real ales. These are served at room temperature and have proved very popular at the Moutere Inn. A still cider has to be well crafted because you can’t hide behind the bubbles. Our current one is nice and rich, it will challenge your taste buds but if you like it you will be lost forever.”
For me I think it is exciting that producers like Peckham’s continue to learn about the fruit, continue to experiment with different ways of making cider and focus on “producing the best product we can because that is where the joy is and where the satisfaction lies.”
Thanks to Neil Hodgson for permission to use this article, first published 27/1/17